How a Socialist Model Can Work in a Democratic Country
The possibility of a universal health care system in the United States seems distant at times. Yet as more and more youths graduate college, and as more and more adults lose positions they have held for decades, one finds oneself wishing that the United States would at least secure this basic right for such individuals, many of whom have few prospects for immediate hire and remain without health insurance coverage. The political situation often does not match social reality, especially with respect to universal health care.
Though President Obama has taken measures to ensure that the health care system is at least reformed a little, the path to a future vote for universal health care remains long and arduous. Sadly, few can envision a socialist model of healthcare working in America, and content themselves with whatever reforms necessary to keep all insured by insurance mandate, which requires individuals to pay for insurance, and which is certainly not the socialist model for which one would hope. Though some may wish to see such a health care system implemented in the United States, many fear it impossible. [1: "Analyzing our economy, government policy, and society through the lens of cost-benefit." (2010). True Cost. Retrieved July 4, 2011, < http://truecostblog.com/2009/08/09/countries-with-universal-healthcare-by-date / > .]
Socialized health care does not have to be the demon and the bureaucratic mess it is made out to be by the media, however. In fact, most of the developed world has socialized health care, and one cannot help but wonder what other countries have done differently and how their social health care systems can run so efficiently. Out of the thirty-three developed countries in our world, thirty-two have universal healthcare. Among these are economic giants, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan. This research will therefore aim to explain just how the healthcare system works in these countries by defining various terms related to these issues, and will also entertain the possibility of such a system and what it would mean for the United States, if implemented. [2: "Analyzing our economy, government policy, and society through the lens of cost-benefit." (2010). True Cost. Retrieved July 4, 2011, < http://truecostblog.com/2009/08/09/countries-with-universal-healthcare-by-date / > .]
The Current Health Care System
In order to understand how health care works in the United States at present, one must examine the roots of the problem. In essence, in order to do this, it is necessary to present a short history of the health care system in America. In the beginning of the 20th century, one could divide health insurance between sickness insurance and health insurance. Sickness insurance meant that a person could be compensated if he or she was unable to work, whereas health insurance meant much of what it means today, i.e. one is covered if sick or for health-related care.
Prior to 1920, however, most patients were treated in their own homes and therefore did not need health insurance per se to be treated in a hospital. Furthermore, medical expenditures were low in cost prior to 1920, due to the fact that most people only received truly rudimentary care, and most commercial insurance companies were unwilling to offer private health insurance policies, as most people felt that health insurance was not necessary, according to the Economic History Association (EHA). [3: Thomasson, M. "Health Insurance in the United States." (2010). Economic History Association. Retrieved July 4, 2011, .]
In the beginning of the 1920's, however, medical care prices started to rise. As the urban population increased, families appealed to hospitals more and more to care for sick members due to lack of space within their own homes. Due to technological advances, physician quality started to improve as well. In addition to the above reasons, another important contributing factors to the increase of medical care was licensure and accreditation requirements for hospitals, according to the EHA, who also states that by the 1930's, America saw itself enter the dawn of "Blue Cross Blue Shield," or Hospital Insurance. The organization describes,
"...As the demand for hospital care increased in the 1920's, a new payment innovation developed at the end of the decade that would revolutionize the market for health insurance. The precursor to Blue Cross was founded in 1929 by a group of Dallas teachers who contracted with Baylor University Hospital to provide 21 days of hospitalization for a fixed $6.00 payment. The Baylor plan developed as a way to ensure that people paid their bills." [4: Thomasson, M. "Health Insurance in the United States." (2010). Economic History Association. Retrieved July 4, 2011, .]
Pre-paid hospital service as mentioned above only grew later in the 1930's, due to the fact that this service was advantageous to both costumers and hospitals during the Great Depression, as incomes fell. The "Blue Cross" model was designed by the American Health Association to reduce price competition among hospital. According to the AHA,
"Prepayment plans seeking the Blue Cross designation had to provide subscribers with free choice of physician and hospital. [...] Originally, the reason for this exemption was that Blue Cross plans were considered to be in society's best interest since they often provided benefits to low-income individuals. [...] Despite the success of Blue Cross and pre-paid hospitalization policies, physicians were much slower in providing pre-paid care [...but] in the 1930s, [they developed] their own pre-paid plans." [5: Thomasson, M. "Health Insurance in the United States." (2010). Economic History Association. Retrieved July 4, 2011, .]
The reason physicians had to do this was due to the fact that Blue Cross plans were becoming popular and limited physician autonomy. Thus, in order to protect themselves, physicians decided that instead of competing with Blue Cross, they would provide an alternative to compulsory insurance that included a framework for pre-paid plans covering physician services. [6: Thomasson, M. "Health Insurance in the United States." (2010). Economic History Association. Retrieved July 4, 2011, .]
This is the beginning of private competition and truly the birth of the health care system as we know it today: private and entirely non-government regulated. One must remember that this all came to be due to the fact that the medical profession implemented a successful system of voluntary health insurance plans, and therefore held back governmental intervention and nationalized insurance, over 100 years ago.
An Alternative to the Current System
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation statistics on health care, around 17% of individuals living in America were uninsured in 2009. Clearly, due to this statistic, the United States is nowhere near achieving a socialized system yet. To add to this statistic, one can note that around 49% of Americans obtain health insurance through their employer. This is fine, of course, as long as one is employed. But what happens when one does not have a job due to various economic circumstances or health related issues? What happens in this case, unfortunately, is that one remains uninsured. [7: "Health Insurance Coverage in the United States 2009."(2010). Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved July 4, 2011 < http://facts.kff.org/chart.aspx?ch=477> .]
While these statistics are quite disappionting, one must note that here are many health care systems that can lead to a better functioning society. This does not mean that American must become a socialist society; it simply means that this country, in its current situation is in need of some other system as that presented above, which is outdated and no longer mirrors the circumstances in this country. There are three ways in which health care could work under a nationalized system, and these ways are implemented in various developed countries in the world. The first way is through the single payer system. This implies that the government provides insurance for all citizens and pays all expenses. Providers in this system can be private or public or both. Of course, in order to sustain the single payer, individuals must contribute through taxes. [8: Thomasson, M. "Health Insurance in the United States." (2010). Economic History Association. Retrieved July 4, 2011, .]
The second way is the two-tier system, in which the government provides only minimum insurance, but allows purchases of additional insurance for a service whenever desired. The third and last way, and one which the United States wants to adopt is the Insurance mandate, in which the government mandates that all citizens purchase insurance from various insurers, whether public or private. However, one benefit to this system is that insurers cannot reject a patient. [9: Thomasson, M. "Health Insurance in the United States." (2010). Economic History Association. Retrieved July 4, 2011, .]
Given these various ways of amending the system to ensure universal health care for all, it is quite disappointing that the United States government has never taken steps to do so and it truly shows the power that the private sector has over this business. This is especially ironic because the United…